Published on February 26, 2014 | by Caroline Clastres

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Discovering Russian London

Russian Restaurant's menu board

Opened in 1965, Borshtch ‘n’ Tears is the oldest Russian restaurant in the UK. [Benjamin Bishop]

Every eminent metropolis in the world has its own panel of ethnic microcosms, and London is no exception to the rule.

French delicatessens in South Kensington, Polish cinemas in Hammersmith or spicy Bengali curries in Whitechapel…you name it, we have it.

But where do we head to if we want to grasp a bit of authentic Mother Russia?

After watching the Olympic Winter Games, I could not help but think it would be quite pleasant to plunge myself into the warm-hearted and lively Slavic atmosphere.

Fortunately, despite the Sochi Games being over, London offers plenty to enable one to stay in a Russian state of mind.

So put your shapkas on and check these places out:

Drinks

If you are looking for a proper Russian feel while sipping on your Vodka, then Ruski’s Tavern is for you.

Currently located in Kensington but moving to exciting new premises in March, this cosy bar displays red velvet seats on painted wooden floors, along with Soviet posters and vintage Russian books.

The dark shades and noble fabrics will certainly get you comfy, whether you arrive for the ‘Dynasty’ (8pm to 11pm) or ‘Revolution’ period (11pm to 3am).

Individual caviar dishes are around £10, and this place is great if you feel like sharing infused Vodkas between a few friends.

Just remember to stick to the ‘glamorous only’ dress code if you want to get in.

Food

If you thought Russian cuisine was only limited to expensive caviars and vodkas, it is worth taking a closer look at the menus of some of the nicest restaurants in town.

Borshtch ‘n’ Tears is located in the heart of Knightsbridge.

This beautiful little eaterie emerged back in 1965 and is the oldest Russian restaurant in the UK.

Extremely reasonably priced considering its location, Borshtch ‘n’ Tears offers authentic Russian cuisine and live music.

From the basic herring salad to the good old shashlyk, you won’t be leaving this place without a good vibe. 

Situated in Kensington, Nikita’s offers traditional varenyky and a delicious beef stroganoff, but the particularity of the place mainly lies in its unusual layout.

Divided into a series of booths that give an intimate feel, it is the best place to have an exceptional dinner with friends.

Plus, you will finally be able to say you went to the same restaurant as Elton John and Kate Moss.

Theatre

The Hope Theatre in Islington is currently the host of Sochi 2014, a protest play against Putin’s recent anti-gay legislation.

Playwright Tess Berry-Hart compiles testimonies of LGBT Russians living under the country’s anti-gay laws, recounting homophobic abuses, whilst exploring the historical and political background of homophobia in Russia.

The entire profits from all performances will be donated to Spectrum, Russia’s leading human rights organisation, devoted to eradicating any kind of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Art

Battleship Potemkin, Stenberg Brothers,

The Gallery for Russian Arts and Design is presenting an exhibition entitled Kino/Film: Soviet posters of the Silent Screen [AntikBar, Christie’s Images Ltd]

Fancy immersing yourself into the 1920s Soviet Union through historical pieces of art? Pop into GRAD (Gallery for Russian Arts and Design).

Presenting an exhibition until March 29 called Kino/Film: Soviet Posters of the Silent Screen, the gallery provides pieces of the golden age of Soviet film posters.

Projected alongside the posters are excerpts of seminal films showcasing the innovative techniques employed by the poster artists and film-makers of this era.

With the UK-Russia Year of Culture underway, this exhibition is definitely worth your interest.

Ballet

From now until April 9 Royal Opera House is presenting a brand new Royal Ballet production in the form of Tchaikovsky’s wintry classic Sleeping Beauty.

The ballet, first performed in Saint Petersburg in 1890, tells the everlasting love story of Princess Aurora and Prince Florimund against the wicked Carabosse.

Main dancers Sarah Lamb and Steven McRae have already received eulogistic reviews steaming in from every direction.

Festivals

From February 24 until March 2, London will be the theatre of Maslenitsa, the Russian sun festival that celebrates the end of winter chills and “the start of spring, warmth and growth.”

The festival will hit a peak of celebrations this weekend with a free public event in Trafalgar Square honouring Russian folklore with traditional dances, music and food.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson seems particularly ecstatic about the upcoming event, stating: ”I’m delighted to support London Maslenitsa in Trafalgar Square. Heralding the Russian Orthodox pre-Lent pancake celebrations and the coming of spring, this year’s colourful, free event is neatly slotted between the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Sochi. Be sure not to miss this wonderful family-friendly occasion.”

With all of these Russian nooks to check out and plenty more to be discovered, what are you waiting for?

Let the dormant Russophile in you come out and get exploring.

 

 

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